A group that campaigns for better rail services in south east Northumberland has welcomed news of a group bid to run five trains a day from Morpeth to London.
The proposed services by First Group, will start from Edinburgh and only call at Morpeth and Newcastle – with some trains also serving Stevenage – and will be in competition to the franchised services run by Virgin Trains East Coast who took over the franchise from the beginning of this month.
South East Northumberland Rail Users Group (SENRUG) chair, Dennis Fancett, said:” We have long argued that there is a strong commercial case for a regular inter-city service at Morpeth.
“Our aspiration is for a service every two hours in each direction. We acknowledge the peak hour provision is now reasonable, though more choice is always good, but we don’t have any off-peak services at all, and the new service proposed by First Group should address that.
“We made a strong case to the Department for Transport to include a better provision for Morpeth in the franchise specification and were disappointed that did not happen.
“We also had some dialogue with First Group when they were bidding for the franchise, and used the opportunity to push strongly the case for Morpeth.
“We acknowledge the business case most likely focuses on the larger markets of Edinburgh and Newcastle, but what is particularly innovative about this proposal is that the trains will stop at Morpeth as well.
“That indicates that First Group recognise there is a large untapped market here.
“We realise of course it is by no means certain that First Group’s application will be successful. We recognise that incumbent operators will object and that there will be a battle to demonstrate the necessary train paths are available.
“But First have considerable experience in the UK rail industry and we wish them well as they progress this application.
“Even if the bid is not successful, First Group’s proposal certainly puts a stake in the ground and we hope it will encourage the existing operators, most of whose services run through Morpeth without stopping, to look more closely at the commercial case for providing a regular inter-city service here.”
SENRUG is also campaigning for services on the TransPennine Express route from Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds to be extended on from Newcastle to Cramlington and Morpeth from the start of the next franchise, which would deliver a half hourly service throughout the day at these stations.